Nestled in a valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range, Kashmir is an idyllic and culturally rich region, a cradle of Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist religious relics and architectural sites.
Fayaz Ahmad’s Faim Internet Café in the Sopore township of Indian Kashmir was booming until a year ago, when police entered his premises without warning and seized all his computers.
Parvez Ahmad Dar climbs three hours to reach the hilltop, generator-equipped tourist centre in Ajaf village, 35 kilometres from Srinagar, to recharge his mobile phone.
Rashid was 12 years old when he picked up a gun and received armed training in Pakistan. He was caught by the Indian forces in 1992 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Five years later when he wished to return to a normal life, everyone turned away from him.
The violence that killed thousands in Kashmir during the turbulent 1990s has eased; now killer roads are taking their toll.
As part of recent confidence building measures aimed at minimising tensions between India and Pakistan, which arose largely due to conflicting claims over Kashmir, the two countries have decided to make the Valley an economic bridge, rather than a bone of contention.
After spending more than 15 years in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, Rafiq Mir (name changed) is keen to come back to his home in the part of Kashmir administered by India.
Four years after three middle-aged men were murdered in cold blood in central Kashmir, their case lies forgotten, collecting dust in the court’s record room, while culprits roam free. Meanwhile, a young woman named Afroza recently lost a two-year battle to get her rapist punished, when her neighbour gave false evidence in court, thus facilitating the acquittal of the accused.
On Feb. 6, a young girl committed suicide by swallowing poison at her home in Kashmir. A few weeks later a teenaged girl from Srinagar hung herself at her residence.
Kashmir is missing out on a ‘demographic dividend’ and unable to cash in on its youthful population for lack of initiatives from a state government bogged down by a two-decade-old armed insurgency.